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REVIEW: Kook by Peter Heller

Product Description

With grit, poetry, and humor, Peter Heller, acclaimed author of The Whale Warriors recounts his remarkable journey of discovery—of surfing, an entirely new challenge; of the ocean’s beauty and power; of the strange surf subculture; of love; and, most of all, of how to seek adventure while crafting a meaningful life.Having resolved to master a big-hollow wave— that is, to go from kook (surfese for beginner) to shredder—in a single year, Heller travels from Southern California down the coast of Mexico in the company of his girlfriend and the eccentric surfers they meet. Exuberant and fearless, Heller explores the technique and science of surfing the secrets of its culture, and the environmental ravages to the stunning coastline he visits.
As Heller plumbs the working of his own heart and finds joy in both love and surfing, he affords readers vivid insight into this fascinating world, with all of its perils and pleasures, its absurdity and wonder. Exhilarating, entertaining, and moving, Kook is a love story between a man and his surfboard, a man and his girlfriend, a not-so-old man and the sea.

About the Author

Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer and long-time contributor to NPR. He is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure and the author of Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River. He lives in Denver, Colorado. He can be reached at

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Original edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743294203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743294201


It is always fun to read a book with your home town involved and I really enjoyed the casual writing of Peter Heller as he describes his initiation into the surfing world.  I live in Surf City (now trademarked!), otherwise known as Huntington Beach, CA  and where Heller first catches the surfing bug.  Even though I have lived here and walk to the beach almost everyday, I never realized how hard it is to surf.  I have watched surfers my whole life but have never tried it myself.  The author takes you through the steps and you learn how easy it was for him to become addicted to the sport.

Surfing has become a violent sport since there are so many people trying it in limited space.  Heller goes into brief detail about the reasons for the arguments over the real estate of waves.  The writing is breathtakingly beautiful just like the scenery he is writing about.  There are parts where you are on the edge of your seat and other parts where you just say "ahhhh" such as when he marries his long time girlfriend.  Heller also discusses climate change and yes, one small fact about dogs:  they are related to whales.  Huh? I did have to go look that one up. This book is the perfect cap on summer. So if you are ever in Huntington Beach at Dog Beach before 7am, be sure to wave at me.  I am the one with the mini dachshund demanding surfers to pet her.


  1. Looks like an interesting book. Being from a pretty much non-surfing state, I don't think much about the real estate and how crowded it has gotten.

  2. Not much surfing in Iowa but sounds interesting to learn about. Always neat to learn about another's passions.
    So how are dogs related to whales?

  3. This is from WikiAnswers.
    Dogs and whales have descended from the same common ancestor. "The dolphins (and whales) belong to the cetacea (a phylogenic classification) and dogs belong to the carnivora. Both of these have evolved from a group called the mesonychidae." Reposted from a post by derrick kolling, Grad student, biophysics, university of illinois urbana champaign.

    I just found that so interesting. There are a lot of other facts in the book like that, but I really found this was a great memoir.


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